The grass is growing, the trees are budding and the flowers are blooming. Spring has sprung and the Wildlife Center is full of baby squirrels, opossums and rabbits. Momma rabbits while very skittish know that humans will not prey on their babies and will often build nests against or near habitations. The good news is that rabbits wean at four to five weeks of age, so even if a nest is discovered, the babies will be on their own before you know it. Even if you have dogs, they usually won’t find the nest until the babies are almost weaning age. The size of a rabbit that is ready to wean is about the size of a woman’s closed fist. The reason is that there isn’t much of a scent to attract the dogs or cats until the babies are older. Momma rabbits ensure that animals aren’t attracted to her scent. She intentionally spends as little time in the nest as possible.
One of the saddest intakes is a litter of bunnies that have been hit by a lawnmower or string trimmer. So, to prevent experiencing this trauma be sure to walk an area before beginning work. Use the handle of a broom to gently sweep through the grass to see if there is a nest present. The nest will look like a clump of dead grass. Once found, the nest can be protected from family pets with an upturned box. Cut a door in the side to allow the mother access and place some weight on it to keep the dog from nosing off the box. If you are concerned that the mother isn’t returning to her nest, place a few small, lightweight twigs over the entrance. Disturbed twigs will ease your mind that the mother continues to return to the nest.
Similar caution needs to be exercised when performing other gardening tasks. Many of the baby squirrels and birds come to us after the trimming of limbs, trees and bushes. Exercise especial caution when trees are cut down. In addition to all of the other animals that will utilize dead trees, woodpeckers, flying squirrels, regular squirrels and owls often hide nests in cavities and are not visible to cursory inspection. Before cutting down a tree, watch it for a week or more to make sure you aren’t dooming animals to injury or death.